ELMORE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the Early Head Start services at centers operated by the Elmore Community Action Committee ended operations on June 21.
The committee operated JR Foster Early Head Start in Wetumpka, Robinson Springs Early Head Start in Millbrook and Autaugaville Early Head Start in Autaugaville. According to Patrick Fisher, public affairs specialist for the department, the facilities' Head Start gr ant was terminated after the Elmore Community Action Committee, formerly known as the Community Action Agency of Central Alabama, failed to correct issues back in 2014.
In December 2014, the committee was notified it would lose the gr ant for not providing maintenance, repair, safety and security of all facilities. The report also cited health and safety issues identified at several centers.
Upon receiving notification that it would be losing funding, the then CAACA appealed the decision to the HHS Department Appeals Board. On June 20 the board ruled to uphold the termination of the funds, effective immediately. The ruling cites "uncorrected deficiencies" in the categories previously listed as reasoning for the terminated funds.
The three centers listed serve 88 low-income infants and toddlers, providing free childcare and educational opportunities. According to Fisher, parents were alerted by letter and phone call. Though the termination is effective immediately and affects both Head Start and Early Head Start programs operated by the committee, the timing prevents many families from being immediately impacted.
Head Start centers were already closed for the summer, and Early Head Start programs were scheduled to close on June 30.
In order to prevent ending necessary care for those in need, HHS contracted Community Development Institute to mediate the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, until another capable provider is presented. This is standard when a community loses its provider. CDI, a Denver-based company, has deployed a facilities team to inspect the facilities in Central Alabama.
While Fisher only confirmed those three facilities were closed, the Alabama Department of Human Resources said its staff was notified of more than a dozen facilities closing throughout Elmore, Autauga and Shelby counties. The report lists a number of facilities with violations and names more than a dozen facilities that are served by the Elmore Community Action Committee.
Barry Spear, with Alabama DHR, said the department is familiar with CDI and said the group had to intervene previously in Dallas County. Once CDI's team confirms the facilities are up to federal health and safety standards, they will be able to move forward in being able to re-open.
"CDI will have to re-apply to open whichever center they plan to open," Spear said. "They'll have to go through the same process that any center would have to go through to become licensed. They'll have to show that they meet minimum standards. They'll have to get inspected by the fire department and other entities."
CDI Head Start is hoping to have facilities re-opened by this fall. Spear said parents who want to find another daycare facility can call DHR or look on the department's website, under Child Services.